With the increase of individual freedoms, we have seen in recent history a growing distance between people and church institutions. The more choices people have the less value they put in organized religion. The perception is that institutions are inflexible organizations oppressing people instead of serving them. What I find perplexing is that while all of this is happening, the leaders seem to be helpless about it, either hoping for some movement of the Spirit to sweep a revival or deserting it all.
We see within the emergent movement a resistance toward institutionalizing, which is unfortunate. It is ok to deconstruct, questioning everything: theology, practices, useless structures. It is ridiculous to see that something doesn’t work and act like everything is fine. And for this the emergent movement has been a prophetic voice, boldly calling out inconsistencies and faulty doctrines and practices. As great as this is, I hear more and more emergents growing weary and longing for something more. They want to see the reconstruction phase started. They want to see not just what is not right in theology but what is right, not just what doesn’t work in Church practice, but what works. Is it any wonder that the emergent movement has been associated with relativism?
I titled this post “The rise and fall of institutions” because I believe that the engine of social change, of meaningful impact (which we seem to desire) is the institution.
- Institutions are structures and mechanisms of social order and cooperation governing the behavior of a set of individuals within a given human collectivity.
We all know that without organization, a plan or a goal we can’t accomplish anything meaningful. If you want to get somewhere you need to determine a direction, have a plan. That’s what institutions are: structures and mechanism set to accomplish a particular purpose. Unfortunately our usual tendency is to equate the institution as a vehicle with its set function. As a result when institutions don’t work we ditch the whole construct, together with the very idea of institution. What we need is not just retire institutions that don’t work anymore, but start the process of rebuilding new ones. This is not only possible, it is imperative.
If the emergent movement is to offer something positive to the Church and to Society (and I believe it has a lot to offer) we need to do this not as a mere hobby, but engage into it full throttle, full-time and united. Yes we need a national organization with people whose full-time job is only this. And we need a whole lot of part-timers and volunteers. In short, we need to create an institution inspired by our ideals and values, a center that we can all call home, that can pull us all together.
Next Monday I am going to draft a vision (albeit incomplete) of what this national organization should be.
If you feel the same, make your voice heard, leave a comment. If you see it different explain why, leave a comment. Let’s have a conversation!!!